Drug Dependency vs Drug Addiction: What is the difference?

When discussing drugs, it is important to know the difference between dependency and addiction. We often get these two terms confused which can result in an incorrect self-diagnosis and the wrong terminology being used within discussions on drugs. In this blog, we discuss the difference between drug dependency and drug addiction.

The history

One of the most popular medical texts used to date is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Historically, in the 1980’s it was debated whether to use the term addiction or dependence and after a vote, the word dependence was favoured.

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Now nearly 30 years after this edition was published, the DSM now has a category referred to as “Substance use disorder” and a chapter within this called “Substance-Related Addictive Disorders”. By using the phrase ‘addictive’ within this, it now allows the terms dependence and addictive to be distinguished.

What is drug dependency?

Drug dependence is a neuroadaptation which develops after repeated substance abuse and makes the individuals dependant on the substance in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms. In other words, dependence is a psychological or physical dependence which is highlighted with the tolerance to a substance and the withdrawal symptoms it causes. One important factor to bear in mind is that dependence is only one factor of addiction and is not equal to addiction.

What is a drug addiction?

Defining the term addiction is a lot more complicated than the term dependence, as its definition is still up for debate in the medical community. In medical practice, an addiction is defined in the “substance use disorder” category of the DSM-5 and when diagnosing a disorder it is stated that a diagnostic interview must be conducted first. Within this, the assessor will look at the tendencies of the individual as well as behaviours which are causing clinically significant impairment to their functioning.

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As well as this, an individual needs to meet at least two of the below symptoms:

  • Cravings
  • Continued use regardless of psychological or physical symptoms
  • Continued use regardless of social/interpersonal symptoms
  • Repeated use in hazardous situations
  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal
  • Use in larger amounts or longer periods than intended
  • Repeated use which results in failure to fulfil major obligations
  • Persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to control the substance use
  • Reduced participation in occupational, social and recreational activities
  • A large amount of time spent in activities related to the use of the substance

Contact New Leaf Recovery

If after reading this you are concerned for a friend, family member or yourself and would like to seek some professional advice on how to overcome an addiction, you can contact one of our care professionals here at New Leaf Recovery Project.

Our care professionals guide our residents through their bespoke rehabilitation programmes on a daily basis and therefore can advise you on how we can help. Contact us on 0300 999 0330 or complete the contact form below.

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